The Systems Studio exists to speed up the evolution towards systems that allow humans and nature to flourish.
Systems change on a huge scale is needed at this point in history. Many of our institutions, industries, organizations and professions were built in a very different context. A context where for example we believed that we could have constant economic growth, without fear of running out of natural resources. The concept of white supremacy was accepted. Women had clearly defined roles and were not seen as capable as men in the workplace.
The world has changed, but we have built institutions, markets, culture, infrastructure that are hugely powerful and have huge negative consequences for significant chunks of people and the planet. .
At the same time, very modern trends are transforming the external environment within which these systems operate. For example:
Technology is disrupting industries and professions simultaneously.
Millennials are coming of age and are shifting workplace dynamics.
Trust in our institutions is at an all time low (Edelman Trust Barometer 2017) and vast swathes of people are rejecting ‘experts’.
Inequality has grown exponentially.
Nations are rejecting globalization.
All of this disruption creates the conditions for better systems to emerge. To create alternatives that show a different system is possible. To build adaptive capacity into our current systems so they can change to meet different objectives. To strengthen systems that benefit others but currently don’t work effectively.
joy is the best strategy for systems change we have
Change is hard. It feels heavy, political, exhausting and serious. But change also involves people and they thrive in conditions of joy. To us joy constitutes the principles outlined by the Leading Causes of Life five:
- Agency – “I can do something to change this.” “My contribution counts.”
- Connection – Skip the small talk- design experiences where people can talk about things you really care about.
- Intergenerativity- Passing knowledge up and down the generations. Take this further and allow people of all levels of seniority to share experience.
- Hope – Create a sense that things can change for the better.
- Coherence - Help people make sense of how they think and feel about an issue and create the conditions for them to share this with the group.
Joy is a feeling that emerges during a workshop, retreat or gathering where people are able to connect in a meaningful way. It is life affirming, it is inspiring and it creates a bond between people that last long after your intervention. It also motivates participants to work on projects that are difficult and to keep going even when it gets really tough.
You can read more about why joy is at the center of what we do here.
what impact do we have if we're successful?
The field of systems change practice is growing and is full of potential, but it is currently not well organized to meet this goal.
We build the field in three ways:
Creating more successful systems entrepreneurs: By working with clients to share what we've learnt about systems change strategy. (See our work on The Systems Sanctuary)
Supporting leaders to host effective gatherings: Systems change is about people and usually involves bringing them together. Effective design and facilitation using systems tools is not always a skill set people trying to change systems often have and it's something we have a great deal of experience in. We help clients by hosting their events and teach them how to do it themselves.
Documenting the work of the field: Supporting systems changers to write down what they've learnt, so that it can be shared with others. Writing our own publications, frameworks and articles to shine a light on the emerging field of practice.
These are a few of the foundational concepts, frameworks and tools that guide our work and bring it to life:
Design Thinking (THNK)
Marketing strategy (Mintzberg)
Graphic illustrating (Jam Visual Thinking)
The Future of Professions (Daniel and Richard Susskind)